Sunrise and Sunset: What You Might Not Know

Image Credit: AlanC (Morguefile.com)

One of the greatest things about reading and understanding the Quran is that it contains so many less-known facts that not just children, but even grown-ups are probably not aware of. The Quranic gem that we will explore with our children today is about one of those fascinating facts.

Is everyone ready for today’s gem? Awesome! Bismillaah 🙂

Okay, so we all know that the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west, right?

When children learn about this however, they might imagine that there’s one fixed point in the east where the sun always rises, and another fixed point in the west where it always sets. But guess what? That’s actually not the case! At least, not everyday.

Allah has mentioned this wondrous fact in Surah no. 70 in the Quran, Surah Al-Ma’aarij:

So I swear by the Lord of the easts and the wests that indeed We are able.” (Surah Al-Ma’aarij: 40)

So what do these “easts” and “wests” exactly mean? How can there be more than one east and more than one west?

Now this is where it gets interesting.

Here’s how it works. There is one point in the east referred to as “due east” and another point in the west known as “due west”.  I would use the term “real east” and “real west” when explaining this to children for easy understanding.

But do you know that there are only two days in one year that the sun actually rises in the “real east” and sets in the “real west”? These days are known as the “equinox”.

On other days, the points where the sun rises and sets change slightly! This means that the sun can rise a little north or a little south to “due east” and sets a little north or a little south of “due west”. So the “easts” and “wests” that Allah talks about in the above verse of Surah Al-Ma’aarij refer to these different points that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day.

[Note: There are different reading materials and websites that discuss this in detail, but for younger kids, I think it’s sufficient to understand the fact that there are different points at which the sun rises and sets every day.]

In some places, this phenomenon can be seen more clearly than in other places. The people who live in these places can actually notice the different points that the sun rises/sets each day, especially in higher places. Amazing isn’t it? SubhaanAllah.

Now here’s what you can do with your kids to explore more about this interesting phenomenon:

The Astronomy Magazine has suggested one interesting activity to observe the changing position of the Sun. Click here to check it out. The phenomenon would be more clear if the period is observation is longer (several weeks or months, for instance).

Make sure to take safety measures such as not to look directly at the sun, and choose a safe place as your observation spot!

Happy learning!

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